Morrow finding his way in Pittsburgh, set for playoffs

Monday, 04.29.2013 / 4:53 PM
Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com Staff Writer

Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Brenden Morrow is looking forward to experiencing those jitters again when the NHL's second season commences.

After missing out on all the fun that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past four seasons with the Dallas Stars, Morrow was all smiles when asked what it's going to be like to get back in the mix with a team that appears primed to play deep into the spring. Top-seeded Pittsburgh will play the New York Islanders in the first round.

"It's been four years … since 2008 when I was last in the playoffs, so I can't wait for that first game when the jitters start to come back," Morrow told NHL.com. "You don't get those very often. I had one about a month ago when I got traded [to Pittsburgh], but haven't had that feeling for a while, so I can't wait to get those butterflies again."

The former Stars captain admits he still follows his friends out West as often as possible, but he's become much more preoccupied with the adjustments to a new city, new time zone and new system under Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.

"There was a little tinkering that I needed to learn," Morrow said. "Every team has a system that they play and Dan is no different. Depending on the opponent and the way they defend, we might adjust a little bit. I was used to playing one system [in my 12-plus seasons] in Dallas."

Evidently, the transition hasn't been too overwhelming. In his 15 games since the trade on March 24 that sent Morrow to the Penguins for a top defensive prospect and two draft picks, he's accounted for six goals, 14 points and a plus-5 rating. His point total has already surpassed what he put together in Dallas, in 14 fewer games.

Morrow had six goals, 11 points and a minus-11 rating in 29 games with the Stars to start 2012-13.

"We get full buildings every night we're playing and the crowd and atmosphere there in Pittsburgh is something I haven't had in Dallas for a few years," Morrow said. "At the rink, it's a big change, big adjustment.

"I feel like I'm getting more comfortable every day. In the first few days, a lot of things are bouncing around in your head and emotions are high. I'm just trying to grab some of the system changes and schemes that you do throughout a game, but they're starting to come to me and I'm getting more comfortable. Now it's just a matter of going out, playing and reacting. I kind of got the habits that they're trying to have me learn and those things are starting to sink in a little bit."

The Penguins added a versatile, tough-as-nails competitor, one they hope will be one of the missing pieces to the playoff puzzle of recent years.

After two straight trips to the Stanley Cup Final, including a championship celebration in 2009, the Penguins have advanced no further than the Eastern Conference semifinals and were eliminated in the quarterfinals the past two seasons. Penguins general manager Ray Shero was determined to address some deficiencies during the season when he acquired defenseman Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks, right wing Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames and left wing Jussi Jokinen from the Carolina Hurricanes.

When Jokinen was traded to the Penguins at the NHL Trade Deadline on April 3, the first person he thought of was Morrow, his former teammate with the Stars for two-plus seasons.

"I was the last guy to come in," Jokinen told NHL.com. "It's a great team and I think all the guys [Shero] traded for add something different and special. I think they were looking for pieces they didn't have in the lineup."

Jokinen said Morrow is the type of player every team needs for a long and successful playoff run.

"I was a teammate with him for two-and-a-half years in Dallas and I think we played a few games together," Jokinen said. "He's a hard-working player and his skill is underrated. I think he's really good in front of the net, screening the goalie and making tips and fighting for rebounds."

Morrow has been a key part of the Pittsburgh power play since his arrival. The Penguins' unit is second in the League, hitting at a 23.8-percent efficiency.

Now that the regular season has concluded, 34-year-old Morrow is hoping for at least one more return to the championship round.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mikemorrealeNHL

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